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Through the Eyes of One of America’s Forgotten by Jennifer Slattery

sad lonely angry kid child tween grieving alone

I was completely blind-sighted and leveled, for some time to come. In fact, I’m not sure the ache God started years ago has ever left. That ache of knowing, really knowing, and feeling completely and utterly inept. More than that, of wrestling with what God might be calling me to do, and yet, erecting barriers to obedience before the prayer concludes.

Double-minded. Partially surrendered. Angered by the injustice of it all yet paralyzed by fear, selfishness, and uncertainty. Some problems seem just too big to tackle, and yet, God—the infinite, all-powerful, all-knowing, sovereign God, has a plan. If we’d but tune our ears and step out in obedience, to whatever He calls us to do. For some that means opening our home to broken children. For others that may mean acting like a support for friends who’ve answered the call to foster. The opportunities to help are endless.

And the need, urgent. There are so many reasons we can say now, but there’s a huge and pressing reason to say yes.

Through the eyes of one of America’s forgotten:

Kraigen stood in the doorway holding a large garbage bag that wasn’t even half full despite the fact that it carried absolutely everything he owned. Clenching his jaw, he braced himself for the worst. Based on the sappy faces and wide, almost teary eyes that stared back at him, this was gonna be one long night. He pretended to listen to the high-pitched chirping that pricked his ears, but in reality, his mind was a million miles, and neighborhoods, away.

He knew the drill. They were happy to have him, wanted him to feel at home, yah-da, yah-dah, yah-dah. He’d heard all that before. And he’d pretend to buy it, for now. Until they shipped him off somewhere else. Because they always did. This was his third home this year, the tenth home since those high-and-mighties down at children’s services shipped him off five years ago when they found his mother passed out on the living room floor, a used heroine needle dangling from her limp hand.

“Can I take your…um…bag for you?” A lady with a way too big smile and mascara caked eye-lashes asked, reaching for Kraigen’s things.

He jerked away instinctively and clutched the smooth plastic to his chest. The woman’s eyes went wide. The man beside her, tall with a thick shaggy beard and thick glasses, started to move forward. When Kraigen looked directly into the man’s eyes and squared his shoulders in his best, “Wanna piece of me?” stance, the man slackened and stepped back.

“Are you hungry?” The woman’s voice was shaky. “I made spaghetti and meatballs. Come with me.”

Kraigen followed reluctantly into a brightly painted kitchen with pink and purple flower curtains. A large, round table laden with salad, milk, steamed vegetables and hot spaghetti sat in the center of the room. Hen tightened his throat to stop his nose from inhaling the aroma of Italian sausage and roasted garlic. Last thing he needed was for his stomach to go growling like some wild animal. Yah, he was hungry. So what? He’d been hungry before, and he’d be hungry again. One hot meal, and a few nights in some Beaver-Cleaver home really wasn’t going to make that much of a difference. It was all temporary, despite their lofty promises.

“Here, have a seat.” The man pulled out a chair and patted the cushion.

Kraigen glanced at the clock. How long were these charades going to go on? But that was how the game was played. They’d do their part, give him a few hot meals, tell him how special he was, that it wasn’t his fault his mom was sick, like they had any idea what they were talking about. But then he’d mess up, or they’d get tired, whatever, and he’d be shipped off somewhere else.

“Like spaghetti?” The lady shoved a steaming hot plate piled high with soft noodles and dripping sauce in front of his face. “I made this just for you.”

An image of his mother passed out on the vomit-stained carpet, her thick, matted hair spread out across the maroon fibers like clumps of wool, flashed through his mind.

He cleared his throat to keep his tears at bay. “Thank you,” and began to push the noodles around his plate with a shiny silver fork.

The man with the thick glasses pulled up a chair, sat beside him and nodded for the lady to do the same. Kraigen pretended not to notice the pathetic looks of sympathy that were etched in their middle-class faces. It was like they were watching some mutated cat trying to lap up a pile of spilled milk.

“I know this is hard for you—”

Yah, right. You and your pretty little white picket fence and two-car garage? You don’t know And I know you won’t stick around long enough to find out. No one does.

headshot2013About the Author:

Jennifer Slattery writes soul-stirring fiction for New Hope Publishers, a publishing house passionate about bringing God’s healing grace and truth to the hopeless. She also writes for Crosswalk.com, Internet Café Devotions, and the group blog, Faith-filled Friends. When not writing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her teenage daughter and coffee dates with her handsome railroader husband.

Visit with Jennifer online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud. 

WhenDawnBreaks_N154102_300dpiRGBMore About When Dawn Breaks:

As the hurricane forces Jacqueline to evacuate, her need for purpose and restitution motivate her to head north to her estranged and embittered daughter and into the arms of a handsome new friend. However, he’s dealing with a potential conspiracy at work, one that could cost him everything, and Jacqueline isn’t sure if he will be the one she can lean on during the difficult days ahead. And then there are the three orphans to consider, especially Gavin. Must she relinquish her chance at having love again in order to be restored?

Read a free, 36-page excerpt here.

When Dawn Breaks is also available at Barnes and Noble and Christian Book Distributors.

BeyondIDocoverAbout Jennifer’s First Novel, Beyond I Do:

Will seeing beyond the present unite them or tear them apart?

Marriage … it’s more than a happily ever after. Eternally more.

Ainsley Meadows, raised by a hedonist mother, who cycles through jobs and relationships like wrapping paper on Christmas morning, falls into a predictable and safe relationship with Richard, a self-absorbed socialite psychiatrist. But as her wedding nears, a battered woman and her child spark a long-forgotten dream and ignite a hidden passion. One that threatens to change everything, including her fiancé. To embrace God’s best and find true love, this security-seeking bride must follow God with reckless abandon and realize that marriage goes Beyond I Do.

Author Interview: Jennifer Slattery

headshot2013Today’s special guest is Jennifer Slattery, the author of When Dawn Breaks. Jennifer writes soul-stirring fiction for New Hope Publishers, a publishing house passionate about bringing God’s healing grace and truth to the hopeless. She also writes for Crosswalk.com, Internet Café Devotions, and the group blog, Faith-filled Friends. When not writing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her teenage daughter and coffee dates with her handsome railroader husband.

Visit with Jennifer online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud. 

Jennifer, thank you for visiting with us again. I truly enjoyed the novel. I got wrapped up into the lives of these characters. I kept rooting for them, and I laughed and cried through the ups and downs. So, my first question that I want to know is: how did this story take shape for you?

I’m so glad you enjoyed the book, Fay. Having learned under you in Scribes for years, that means a lot. In regard to your question, much of it just flowed. I felt most drawn and connected with Gavin, but I loved Jacqueline and Jonathan, too. I knew I was introducing my readers to some tough realities, so I felt I really needed a lot of humor sprinkled throughout, to give them comic relief. Then I found I loved those comedic threads as much as the heart-wrenching portions.

Is there a Jacqueline Dunn or a Jonathan Cohen, maybe a child who resembles Gavin, Adele, or Jaya in your life? If not, how did you manage to draw such believable and heartwarming characters?

Yes to all of those. J If only I had the page space to expound on each character. I have always struggled with feeling loved—receiving love, so I really related to Gavin’s feelings of being unwanted. He so longed to belong, to hold tight to those relationships he had, and really, to be loved. But it seemed what he needed most kept evading him, and he was powerless to do anything about it. And yet, God continued to pursue him, through His children.

When I became an adult, after ten years of extensive healing by Christ, I looked back over my life and I could see how God had reached out to me, again and again, through others. The neighbor who invited me in for Vacation Bible School, the family that showed me kindness when ours came over for barbecues and such. The blind neighbor who allowed me to help her take out the trash then used that initial connection to form a relationship with me, one that resulted in me coming to her house daily in my elementary years. Or the numerous families that took me in, when I was a teen, when I felt hopeless and alone.

Though I felt incredible pain from things in my past, I saw that God had never left me. He was the truest, most faithful love I’d ever known.

This is the love I wanted to show, but I also wanted to show how God reveals that love through us, His body. Which is an incredible honor and responsibility—to think God trusts us with a wounded heart. Wow.

Well, I know a lot of folks who love you for who you are today and the kindnesses you show to them.

I’m guessing that either you know about foster care or you did a great deal of research. If a reader wanted to know how they could get involved, even if it is just volunteering and not fostering children—but certainly that as well—what would you tell them are some of the steps they can take to reach out to children in this type of system?

My sister has worked in the foster care industry for some time, first as a social worker and now as an in-home therapist, so I’ve learned a great deal about the needs and the miracle stories. (She also helped me a great deal with this novel!) There are so many ways people can become involved. They can foster, providing a loving, Christ-filled, and safe environment for these hurting children. They can foster to adopt, which is incredibly beautiful and a huge part of breaking the cycle of generational abuse and poverty. They can be a support for friends who do foster care, which is hugely needed!

They can become licensed to do respite care, which provides periodic breaks for those doing foster care, enabling them to stay fueled emotionally, physically, and spiritually. They can help spread the word, start a support group in their church, get involved in CASA, an organization that pairs adult advocates with foster children so the children have a stable relationship in their life throughout all the changes and moves they might go through.

A big one, I think, is training our children to be compassionate. Those “problem” kids in school who act socially awkward and are perhaps difficult to be around? They may be extremely wounded, shuffled from one home to the next, and our children can be a friendly, loving face at school that can help bring peace. And ultimately, people can pray. For foster kids, those who’ve been adopted, those doing foster care, the social workers whom are overworked and underpaid, a system that is ill-equipped to deal with the massive need…

I have to ask a hurricane question because I’m a student of hurricane history. Have you ever lived in a hurricane-prone area or have you ever had first-hand experience with a hurricane? If so, would you share? If not, I’d love to know about your research—just because the subject fascinates me.

I have. We lived in Louisiana during Katrina. It was such a crazy time! Louisiana and Texas weren’t equipped to deal with the level of tragedy, devastation, and need. It was utter chaos, and the local churches were the first to respond. Churches were housing people in their basements, putting them in mobile homes, giving them food, clothing, you name in. Our church in particular became a sort of warehouse of goods. We had so many donations; we lined them up in the pews, labeling each pew so folks knew what they contained. (We had various bags lined on the pews, all organized by similarity.)

The storm victims could come, get what they needed, without having to ask. This was huge as these people were already devastated, completely humbled, so this allowed them to retain some sort of dignity.

Our library was also packed each day. People sat on the ground, on chairs, waited behind computers, etc. Many were trying to find out FEMA and insurance stuff. I suspect others simply wanted a place to spend the day. I went, and noticed the empty—like so broken, there was nothing there—look on many of the parents’ faces, so I began to read to the kids, to give the parents a break and the kids a bit of joy. I still remember the look on one dad’s face when his daughter came to my side—it was teary gratitude. I believe he was grateful to have someone helping out with his child at a time when, emotionally, he couldn’t do that.

While researching, I read a great deal about what went on at the Superdome. Wow, that was bad.

Wow! I’m glad I asked. That’s an awesome testimony that you and your church have, and I can see where God used that time to teach you things that you could share about others regarding emergency shelters and the needs of those there. I have never gone through a Katrina, and the Lord willing, I don’t plan to do so.

And as always, I’d love to know what your next project will be.

Absolutely! How about if I give you the preliminary back cover blurb?

Abandoned by her husband, an organ procurement coordinator fighting to keep her job and her sanity encounters an old flame facing an unthinkable tragedy.

For Tammy Kuhn, being an organ procurement coordinator is more than a job. It’s a ministry. But when her husband of sixteen years leaves her for another woman, struggles with childcare, her absentee ex-husband, and an altercation with a doctor threaten her job. Embittered and overwhelmed, she fights to maintain her sanity when a late night encounter with an old flame stirs emotions long since buried but the ICU is no place for romance.

This novel is scheduled to release in October.

Thanks so much for having me, Fay! I always love visiting your site!

I love having you, Jennifer. Your friendship and watching your career is one of the joys of my life, and I hope that you will come back and visit us for the release of this next novel.

WhenDawnBreaks_N154102_300dpiRGBMore About When Dawn Breaks:

As the hurricane forces Jacqueline to evacuate, her need for purpose and restitution motivate her to head north to her estranged and embittered daughter and into the arms of a handsome new friend. However, he’s dealing with a potential conspiracy at work, one that could cost him everything, and Jacqueline isn’t sure if he will be the one she can lean on during the difficult days ahead. And then there are the three orphans to consider, especially Gavin. Must she relinquish her chance at having love again in order to be restored?

Read a free, 36-page excerpt here.

When Dawn Breaks is also available at Barnes and Noble and Christian Book Distributors.

BeyondIDocoverAbout Jennifer’s First Novel, Beyond I Do:

Will seeing beyond the present unite them or tear them apart?

Marriage … it’s more than a happily ever after. Eternally more.

Ainsley Meadows, raised by a hedonist mother, who cycles through jobs and relationships like wrapping paper on Christmas morning, falls into a predictable and safe relationship with Richard, a self-absorbed socialite psychiatrist. But as her wedding nears, a battered woman and her child spark a long-forgotten dream and ignite a hidden passion. One that threatens to change everything, including her fiancé. To embrace God’s best and find true love, this security-seeking bride must follow God with reckless abandon and realize that marriage goes Beyond I Do.

 

Character Interview: Jacqueline Dunn from Jennifer Slattery’s When Dawn Breaks

WhenDawnBreaks_N154102_300dpiRGBToday’s special guest is Jacqueline Dunn from Jennifer Slattery’s heartwarming novel, When Dawn Breaks. Jacqueline, I know that your life has become a very busy one, and I’m thankful that you can take the time out to stop in and share a little about your story. In the last year, you’ve been through a lot of loss. Your story is one that truly does show the truth behind Romans 8:28, that all things do happen for good to those who love the Lord … What I’d like to know is your take on that verse.

I’ve certainly see God work a lot of good out of my mess! And boy, am I thankful! I think Jennifer would get upset if I said too much, as I’d probably give parts of the story away without even knowing it! But suffice it to say, I’m learning to trust God more and more each day, to see He truly does have my best in mind—even when I’m smack dab in the worst storm, literally and metaphorically, I’ve ever experienced.

You lost your home, practically everything that you own in a hurricane. I live in a hurricane prone area. I’ve seen the devastation of hurricanes myself, but I want to know the emotional toll this loss took on you?

Oh, wow, that was hard. I’d spent my entire adult life building my career and assets. It probably didn’t make a lot of sense to plunk so much money into a beach home, but the market was doing so well. I really though I was making a great, long term investment. I learned how futile my plans are, and I guess, in the end, I learned that was a good thing. Even so, it was still hard to lose so much; so much I’d worked decades to build. More than that, I lost a lot of cherished mementos… but in the end, I gained things of greater value.

Broken relationships are a theme of this story. I do believe that everyone has at least one relationship that might have been broken by either that person’s actions or non-actions or by the actions of others. What would you say is the one Scripture or Biblical precept that helped you to cope with a relationship that you know only God can heal?

God really used Romans 12:18 to encourage me. I’ve since committed this verse to memory. It says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

This verse first and foremost encourages me to do everything I know to work toward peace. That means owning up to my mistakes and realizing, when I’ve hurt others, like I have my daughter, it might take time to earn their trust. But then the verse also reminds me that I can only do so much; it’s up to the other person whether they want to forgive, and they may not. That’s hard. That’s really hard. But it’s life. That doesn’t mean I wash my hands of the person or situation but rather that I release them and their response to God.

Another theme that I saw in the story was one of leaning on God, and trusting not in your understanding but in God’s promises. How difficult a journey was that for you?

Oh, my, is that ever hard for me! I haven’t been a Christian for long, and sometimes it’s all so confusing, and terrifying! I hear other believers talk about God speaking to them, telling them to do this or that, and I can’t help but stare at the sky and think, “Um… when will I hear God? What does He sound like anyway?”

So a lot of learning to trust in God is learning to recognize His voice, which usually doesn’t come via a megaphone. Haha. I suppose that’s why He gave us promises in Scripture; so we would rely on the truth we know rather on what we think or feel. Not to say God can’t or doesn’t speak to us directly, but my old pastor used to say, “Before you go asking God to speak to you about this or that, get busy doing what He’s already told you.” That stepped on my toes a bit, in a good way.

And lastly, I want to know how you’ve managed to cope with all of the changes in your life.

Hm… I’m not sure how well I’ve coped, to be honest, though I’m learning. To be more patient, more giving, more loving, more relaxed. I guess that comes from learning more about God, growing closer to Him, and staying around other believers. You know, I think serving has also helped.

Shortly after the hurricane ripped me from my home, I began serving in a shelter filled with other storm refugees—those who literally had nothing, not even family they could stay with. That really put my problems and pains into perspective. Not only that, I found I could still experience joy by allowing Christ to love through me, even when my life is hard—especially when my life is hard! I’ve heard it said, the more we focus on ourselves, the more miserable we become. But the abundant life Christ promised comes from dying to ourselves, honoring others above ourselves, and surrendering to Christ and His plan for our lives. I’ve learned through all this storm garbage just how true that sentiment is!

Jacqueline, it has been a pleasure getting to know you both here and in When Dawn Breaks. I look forward to the interview with your author, Jennifer Slattery, on Wednesday.

More About When Dawn Breaks:

As the hurricane forces Jacqueline to evacuate, her need for purpose and restitution motivate her to head north to her estranged and embittered daughter and into the arms of a handsome new friend. However, he’s dealing with a potential conspiracy at work, one that could cost him everything, and Jacqueline isn’t sure if he will be the one she can lean on during the difficult days ahead. And then there are the three orphans to consider, especially Gavin. Must she relinquish her chance at having love again in order to be restored?

Read a free, 36-page excerpt here.

When Dawn Breaks is also available at Barnes and Noble and Christian Book Distributors.

BeyondIDocoverAbout Jennifer’s First Novel, Beyond I Do:

Will seeing beyond the present unite them or tear them apart?

Marriage … it’s more than a happily ever after. Eternally more.

Ainsley Meadows, raised by a hedonist mother, who cycles through jobs and relationships like wrapping paper on Christmas morning, falls into a predictable and safe relationship with Richard, a self-absorbed socialite psychiatrist. But as her wedding nears, a battered woman and her child spark a long-forgotten dream and ignite a hidden passion. One that threatens to change everything, including her fiancé. To embrace God’s best and find true love, this security-seeking bride must follow God with reckless abandon and realize that marriage goes Beyond I Do.

headshot2013About the Author:

Jennifer Slattery writes soul-stirring fiction for New Hope Publishers, a publishing house passionate about bringing God’s healing grace and truth to the hopeless. She also writes for Crosswalk.com, Internet Café Devotions, and the group blog, Faith-filled Friends. When not writing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her teenage daughter and coffee dates with her handsome railroader husband.

Visit with Jennifer online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.